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Dan Aykroyd

Everything you need to know about Dan Aykroyd

Image: Dan Aykroyd at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2019 | Kathy Hutchins /

The UnBelievable with Dan Aykroyd opens up a cabinet of curiosities to reveal the strangest stories in human history. It's a bizarro barrage of people places and events that prove just how weird our world can be. The show airs Mondays at 10pm as part of Mystery Season on Sky HISTORY.

Whilst many will instantly associate Dan Aykroyd with the 1984 box office smash Ghostbusters, the Canadian actor is a man of many talents. Throughout his long and successful career, Aykroyd has added many feathers to his cap, including comedian, writer, producer, director, musician and entrepreneur.

From his early days on Saturday Night Live through to his multi-award-winning wine and spirit businesses, let’s take a look at the life of Dan Aykroyd.

Early years

Born on 1st July 1952 in Ottawa, Ontario, Aykroyd was welcomed into the world on a national holiday, Canada Day. Aykroyd’s mother, Lorraine, was of French-Canadian descent. His father, Peter H. Aykroyd, was a civil engineer who also worked as a policy advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of current PM Justin Trudeau.

It was clear from a young age that Aykroyd, along with his younger brother Peter, had aspirations to be on the stage. Acting lessons led to a continued interest in the performing arts during his time at St. Pius X and St. Patrick High Schools.

A university career studying criminology and sociology at Carleton University was short-lived after Aykroyd dropped out to pursue his newfound love of comedy and to develop his budding skills as a blues musician.

Big Break

Aged just 17, Aykroyd scored his first professional comedy gig, working with Lorne Michaels on the sketch show The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour. Although the series didn’t run for long, his relationship with Michaels later led to bigger and greater things.

When the Chicago-based improvisational theatre troupe known as The Second City launched a Toronto branch, Aykroyd was keen to join, which he did in 1973. During his time there, Aykroyd met John Belushi, a fellow comedian with whom he later shared a long comedic partnership.

Aykroyd was then contacted by Michaels to come work on a new late-night comedy show that he had created called Saturday Night Live (SNL). Although originally hired as a writer, by the time the show premiered Aykroyd was a part of the show's first-ever cast, known as ‘The Not Ready For Prime Time Players’.

Saturday Night Live

Between 1975 and 1979, Aykroyd was one of the major stars of SNL and became a household name in America. Not only did he write and act out his own characters, such as Bedlar Conehead and Elwood Blues, but he also did wildly over-the-top impersonations of anyone from Richard Nixon to Julia Child. Among his castmates, his energy was unmatched, helping him stand out from the crowd.

His time on the show led to an Emmy Award for writing and two further nominations for writing and acting.

The Blues Brothers

Aykroyd’s friend from The Second City, John Belushi, also made it into the original cast of SNL and it was during their time together on the show that they created The Blues Brothers act.

Merging their shared love of music and inspired by Aykroyd’s own experiences attending and performing in a blues café when he was younger, the comedic pair created the fictional musical duo of ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues and Elwood Blues. Jake was the lead singer whilst Elwood was the backup vocalist and harmonica player in their band.

The duo were called The Blues Brothers and were dressed in distinctive black suits with matching trilby hats and sunglasses. Accompanied by professional musicians, they quickly evolved from a stage act to a genuine musical band, playing live gigs and releasing albums.

Their first album, Briefcase Full of Blues, sold millions of copies and remains one of the highest-selling blues albums of all time. In 1980, The Blues Brothers hit movie theatres with great success. A follow-up film was released in 1998 entitled The Blues Brothers 2000.

The band continues to tour to this day, with Aykroyd occasionally still taking the stage as Elwood, with Belushi’s brother Jim accompanying him as ‘Brother Zee’, since John Belushi passed away in 1982.

Ghostbusters and the big screen

In 1979, Aykroyd left SNL and pursued a career on the big screen. His early work included Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1979), The Blues Brothers (1980), Neighbors (1981) and Trading Places (1983) alongside SNL alumni Eddie Murphy.

Inspired by his own lifelong fascination with the paranormal, Aykroyd co-wrote the supernatural movie Ghostbusters (1984) with Harold Ramis, about a ghost-catching business in New York. Aykroyd starred in the film alongside Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver and it proved to be his biggest hit. Ghostbusters was a huge commercial success, banking nearly $300 million off a budget of just $30 million.

The movie became a cultural phenomenon (as well as a multi-billion-dollar franchise) and was praised for its unique blend of comedy, action and horror. A sequel was released in 1989, which proved again to be a commercial hit.

Aykroyd enjoyed other big-screen success during the 80s, co-writing several hits including Spies Like Us (1985) and Dragnet (1987). His performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

He brought his SNL character Bedlar Conehead to life in the 1993 movie Coneheads and followed that up by starring in several other hit films during the 90s, including Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and Antz (1998).

During the 2000s, Aykroyd continued to act, playing roles in a variety of genres from comedy to drama, including Pearl Harbor (2001) and 50 First Dates (2004).


Outside of acting and writing, Aykroyd has founded several successful commercial enterprises.

In 1992, he co-founded the House of Blues, a live concert venue and restaurant. House of Blues is now a widespread franchise with a chain of venues across America.

In the 2000s, Aykroyd moved into the wine and spirits business, co-founding Crystal Head Vodka as well as investing in several wineries, with both ventures yielding Aykroyd several awards.

Personal life

Aykroyd has three children with fellow actor Donna Dixon. He’s spoken publicly about his diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome at the age of 12, as well as having Asperger syndrome, which was diagnosed in the early 1980s.